The older folks that I grew up around were part of the generation that changed America. That’s not to say they all marched in civil rights demonstrations or participated in protests, but they shared in the historical consciousness of the period. They couldn’t escape it—it was in the air. Most of these people were born near or during the Depression. Living in Jim Crow American was difficult; yet some people made gains despite it. Most of those gains, however, were lost during the Depression. These people knew hardship. Part of that hardship was the wanton and capricious violence inflicted on families by white southerners who acted maliciously and always with impunity. (I know some of my family’s stories, and some of them show the courage and sacrifice my ancestors made.)
These people grew up neglected, victimized, and disrespected by the larger white society. Many were burdened by inferiority complexes, Post Traumatic Slave Syndromes, and Willie Lynch mentalities; but they expected their own people to show respect to each other. And those who had lived the longest, enduring the daily tribulations of racist life in America, and who had in spite of this, been beacons for their families, and models for their communities, were respected most. These were the elders, those who were closest to the ancestral world and who had acquired the most wisdom in this one. Yes, they were the ones given the most respect.
Clearly, there has been a communal breakdown among our people. Some scholars argue this breakdown is a result of the civil right movement, which spurred a black flight, that drain our communities of its professionals, intellectuals, businesspeople, and artists, who now moved to "integrated" neighborhood, where there was less crime, better budgeted-schools, better medical facilities, and overall better services. Needless to say, this breakdown is a primary reason our young are so alienated from the old. This is why they can utter such statements regarding respect. But I have one question for them, if you don’t want to respect those who came before you, who paved the way, then what about yourselves? (I don't see much self respect out there.)
This was a trick question. The two, self respect and respect for others, are linked--they are locked into a reciprocal relationship that is mutually exclusive; It is not possible to respect oneself, if one has not developed the capacity to respect others! After all, it is only by drawing from that capacity to respect others, that one realizes self respect! We must recognize that respect is not an innate quality but is a cultural concern. The way it works is the elders teach it, the young learn it. It is a social courtesy and as such, you don't really have to give it, to get it. You give it because you were taught to. You often didn't even know the person well enough to determine whether they actually warranted respect--it was politeness. This article was not written to pass any age-group or generational blame, since the real issue is our communal breakdown. Thus, the problem is a communal one, not simply a personal or individual one. We have to solve it and everybody has to do their job, play their part.